A socialist take on the French election

Liberals around the world are unabashedly rejoicing at Macron’s election. Someone posted on my Facebook feed praising Macron and Trudeau and saying something to the effect of “If it takes running young handsome men to beat the far right, let’s do it!” As a democratic socialist, I’m just as relieved as the next gal that Marine Le Pen, a neo-fascist and truly nasty piece of work, didn’t win the French presidency. But Macron is a deeply flawed politician who offers more of the same old neoliberalism (he worked at an investment bank, is a fan of austerity, and wants to cut pensions and increase work hours). He ran using the politics of spectacle, personality, and celebrity, privileging style over substance. His party isn’t a movement – it’s just a candidate-oriented vehicle that brought him to power. He doesn’t have a solid theory of political struggle and social change, and, in part as result of this glaring failure to understand how politics actually works, it’s unlikely that he’s going to be able to cobble together a coalition strong enough to effectively resolve the problems the French face. So what’s likely to happen is that, over the next five years, France’s problems will worsen, and the far right will be emboldened and empowered by the continued failure of neoliberalism. 2022 will be a bumpy ride. (Incidentally, had Hillary Clinton won, I would have said essentially the same thing about the United States.)

More than that, though, to be giddy over Macron’s election ignores the fact that the Western world is now locked in a vicious cycle: the approach to politics, in both form and substance, that brought us Macron’s victory is the exact same politics that brought us the Front National and Le Pen in the first place. Trudeau, Macron, and Obama, in running as supposedly post-partisan, non-ideological center-right candidates who used their youth and good looks to the fullest and blithely disregarded the suffering and inequality of the masses, represent precisely the politics that must be defeated by the Left if we’re to escape this vicious cycle and move in the direction of something more promising and less likely to plunge the entire world into the depths of entrenched neo-fascism. Macron’s victory is a bandage which has been hastily slapped over a festering wound which will putrefy in the years to come. We had better hope that Jean-Luc Melenchon and the French Left also draw strength from Macron’s failures and are ready to smash the neo-fascists in the 2022 election.

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